Beyond the Mystique: Domesticity and the Proverbs 31 Woman

She has dinner ready by six o’clock. The steam from roast chicken with carrots and mashed potatoes dances under the nostrils. Lamps and end tables are free of dust and clutter, kitchen countertops are shiny and slick, the sink is empty; not a hair is out of place on this woman’s head, and her lipstick perfectly kisses her wide smiling lips. She serves food to her husband and children, who are seated around the dining room table. Her children smile, laugh, and act affectionately towards each other and towards their parents. All is right in the perfect little world of this happy housewife, a scene akin to a family sitcom from the 1950s called Leave It to Beaver. June Cleaver was the iconic image of a 1950s housewife, and the show centered around her youngest son’s boyish mishaps and adventures.

The Cleavers were the quintessential post-war American family: the dad worked, while the mom stayed home and cooked and cleaned. They embodied traditional family values and stuck up for morality. For the most part, everybody in the household got along. If there were any familial or outside skirmishes, they were confronted with ease and perfectly resolved. Watching the show can feel like entering a time warp to a by-gone era. It is pure, innocent, and clean compared to some family sitcoms of today. I’ve known some Christians who wistfully look back on the show and decry the perceived corruption of our modern world. They would say our society is now less “Christian” than the 1950s. But was the show truly Christian? Was the portrayal of a happy housewife through June Cleaver something Christian women should strive to embody?

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Is Marriage a Cage?

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Marriage? Nope. Not for me. I was the fish swimming against the current when all my girlfriends were swimming in a desperate frenzy for the destination. I was like the Apostle Paul, happy being single and wishing all the fish would realize singleness is a gift. I appreciated Paul’s enthusiasm for the single life, but I overlooked his encouragement for the gift of marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:7.) My upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision.

I believe my fear stemmed from a few sources. The church I grew up in held strong views of biblical manhood and womanhood, especially the woman’s role of submission in marriage. I believed in these truths only as concepts, but as real life personal application it felt daunting.

I also think the subtle cultural grasp of feminism was grabbing at my heart and mind. I was in college at the time and many of my professors were influencing the classroom with their worldview. Though I was scared of applying biblical womanhood in my life, and my college professors had a strong feminist mindset, the fault did not lie with all of them, but with me.

Courtney Reissig, author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design, states fear as the root of feminism by saying,

“But what feminism tried to do was empower women to rise above their circumstances in their own strength, in many ways owing to these very fears of vulnerability…Feminism answered the fears that women faced by putting women in control of their own destiny, by making women the final authority in their lives. And it’s easy to do isn’t it? We feel like if we have some semblance of control than we can’t be hurt, we can’t be disappointed, or we can’t be given over to our fears.”

My heart was fearful, because I desired control of my life. A godly relationship and marriage was a threat to my happiness from my perceived control over my life and identity. Control was the root desire I craved, which resulted in fear. I wanted control over my heart too. I was overly guarded. I barricaded my heart from vulnerability, because I knew a relationship had the potential to hurt me. To me showing emotion was a sign of weakness, and I took pride in the lack of it.

Freedom and a Cage

I felt like singleness was freedom and marriage was a cage. I thought my future husband would squelch my gifts, and I would be resigned to a frilly apron in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies. Yet, today I am married. How did that happen? Only by the faithfulness of God slowly chiseling away at the rock of my stubborn heart.

He was my good Shepherd who disciplined me with his staff to protect me and kept me within his boundary lines. He guided me through the shadow of the valley of uncertainty. He did not leave my side. I could trust him. He was giving me a gift to bless me, and I was pushing it away. I thought marriage would trap me in a cage, but I was already caged in by my sinful fear. I finally realized Christ was the remedy for my fearful heart.

Throughout my dating relationship with my husband God continued to guide and discipline me. He had my best in mind and wanted me to see it as his best. He showed me that marriage is not a cage, it is a blessing; a gift he gives to make us more like him. The only cage is a heart trapped in bondage to sin.

Marriage is also a picture of Christ and his Church; a picture of submission and service. Christ led through service to a cross of sacrifice, and we as his Church respond in humility and appreciation for his service and sacrifice. God was calling me to live out this beautiful picture all through his sufficient grace.

My identity as a wife is cloaked in the ultimate identity I have in Christ. My gifts are not squelched, but they are being poured out in service for others in my home. My gifts are being used not only in my home life, but in my local church, and even through some of my writing. Other seasons will come for using more gifts as well. I don’t have to ‘break free’ from a family to experience the freedom I have in Christ. He’s broken the cage of my sin and set me free to live for him.

4 Ways to not be Busy

Part 4 of the Christian Thinking series. 

I am woman.

I am invincible. 

I am tired. 

A saying borrowed from a 1970’s song succinctly states a dilemma still facing today’s women. The feminist movement has always told us we are strong and powerful and can do anything we set our minds to do. Then why are we so exhausted? We throw around the phrase, “I’m busy,” like a boomerang. It feels like we are playing a broken record on repeat trying to get the same things done every day, but it doesn’t end; and does anything really get done?

This is the mentality of our western culture — a hurried frenzied mess. We pop stress like pain pills. If you aren’t running like mad through this labyrinth of busyness like everyone else then you are boring or lazy, right? This way of thinking is so wrong, but it’s such a strong cultural pressure pushing on us that it’s hard not to give in.

As women we think we can never do enough. If we choose to stay home with our kids then we feel like we should make up for not having another job title by staying super busy around the house. Whether a working mom, stay at home mom, or a single career woman, there is always pressure out there to do more than we are already doing. How should we think through this false cultural way of thinking and replace it with a Christian way of thinking?

1.) You can’t do it all

It’s hard to admit it. It’s humbling to realize we are actually weak people in desperate need of strength from God. I’ve been realizing this lately. I’ve always struggled with self-sufficiency and pride. When my husband goes out of town or works late a few nights in a row I think I can handle everything on my own. A toddler, a baby, and a house to take care of can’t be that hard, right? Then when I try to do too much with him gone I become burnt out, stressed, and exhausted. I realize I actually need a lot of help.

We aren’t mean’t to do everything on our own. God gave us a support system through his church body and our own family unit. Ask for help more often from your husband, friends, family, and most importantly God. Just admitting you can’t do it all is the starting line that frees you to run the race. God says he gives grace to the humble, but opposes the proud. So, humble yourself, ask God for help more often, and he will pour his grace on you.

2.) You can’t please everyone

The only one we need to please is God. Ask yourself, with the season I’m in right now what is God calling me to do? What would please him? It should be a very simple answer.

For example, with the season of life I’m in right now my calling is to serve my husband and children. Right now, for me this looks like staying home and taking care of our children, our house, and preparing food for us. It’s ok if I want to add a few other activities to my plate that I enjoy or need to do, but my top priority and main focus are my husband and children and taking care of our home. If anything else infringes on that priority then I need to evaluate my options and say no to some things.

Nancy Leigh Demoss says,

“Freedom, joy, and fruitfulness come from seeking to determine God’s prioritites for each season of life.”

3.) Be intentional

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said,

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Why is it barren? Because being busy just for the sake of being busy lacks purpose and focus.

God redeemed us to give us purpose. Our purpose on this earth is to know him more, make him known to others, and to bring him glory in whatever lot he gives us at the moment. This is the purpose of every true Christian man and woman. God’s Word gives us guidelines for other ways we have purpose in this life and how we can please him. His Word can help us be intentional, because it speaks to every season of life.

Jesus is a true example of intentionality. He came to this earth as a man with one purpose, one focus, one intent, and that was to bring salvation to mankind. He was always about doing his father’s will. Every miracle and every teaching in his earthly ministry had one focal point, and that was the fulfillment of the Gospel through himself. The miracles and teachings were just tools he used to achieve his one mission.

After 33 years of ministry, Jesus was able to say,

“I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do.” John 17:4

His one purpose on earth was fulfilled. It was finished. What work has God given you to do right now? You can go to bed with an unfinished to do list if you finished the work God had for you for the day.

4.) Rest

Among the agenda of Jesus’ ministry he always went off alone to pray and think. We can’t do the work God has for us without rest. At the top of the list is spiritual rest. We have to make time to study and meditate on God’s Word and pray often.

Also, make time to exercise other forms of rest. Nap. Just sit, think, and read. Do something creative with your hands. Take a walk. Learn to be ok with being alone with yourself and with God. Learn to be still and quiet.

If the season you are in right now does not lend time for more specific areas of rest then just focus on spiritual rest.

Much of the barren busyness in our culture is an unconscious tactic to fill the empty void inside us. This is not how it should be for us as Christians. We are already fulfilled in Christ, we don’t need an endless amount of appointments and activities to make us feel important or worth something. We have only one life on this earth, let’s not waste it being busy.

Part 5 >>

Can We Really Have It All?

Feminism tells us ‘we can have it all.’ Is this possible? Even if it is possible, should we have it all?

Feminism after World War Two told women to leave the home and have a career. Now it’s more of a relaxed approach where domestic arts are not frowned upon, and feminists believe in the importance of marriage and motherhood. It’s even trendy now to be domestic. Today it’s cute and desirable to be a woman who bakes bread, knits, and throws Pinterest-worthy birthday parties for her kids.

Now we see the post World War Two career woman married to the domestically cute wife and mother. We have to be both. Do it all and be it all. The social pressure is high to become a one woman juggling act and add one more ball.

We have to race to the top of the corporate ladder as fast as the men, be as successful outside the home as inside the home, still come home and cook healthy meals for our families, help with homework, do house chores, bake cookies, and still find time to be beautiful and skinny. Women keep pressuring women to do it all and be it all. In the feminist quest to be like (or even better) than men we’ve beat up our own sex.

The Juggling Act

Pick up the phone, women, reality is calling and she’s saying you can’t have it all. Well, you can, but something in your life will suffer. Your career might suffer, your marriage might fall apart, your children will not have your full attention, or your health might take a dive. When juggling so much it’s inevitable that something will be subpar. It’s time to stop believing the cultural lie forced on us in our fast-paced society. It’s time to lay down our pride and know we can’t do it all.

Anne-Marie Slaughter says it perfectly in her article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,”

“All my life, I’d been on the other side of this exchange. I’d been the woman smiling the faintly superior smile while another woman told me she had decided to take some time out or pursue a less competitive career track so that she could spend more time with her family. I’d been the woman congratulating herself on her unswerving commitment to the feminist cause, chatting smugly with her dwindling number of college or law-school friends who had reached and maintained their place on the highest rungs of their profession. I’d been the one telling young women at my lectures that you can have it all and do it all, regardless of what field you are in. Which means I’d been part, albeit unwittingly, of making millions of women feel that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot).”

In his book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg Mckeown says:

“The idea that we can have it all and do it all is not new. This myth has been peddled for so long, I believe virtually everyone alive is infected with it. It is sold in advertising. It is championed in corporations…What is new is how especially damaging this myth is today, in a time when choice and expectations have increased exponentially. It results in stressed people trying to cram yet more activities into their already over scheduled lives.”

He goes on to say:

“It’s not just the number of choices that has increased exponentially, it is also the strength and number of outside influences on our decisions that has increased….The larger issue is how our connectedness has increased the strength of social pressure. Today, technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.”

The Weariness of it All

It’s time to stop the comparisons, judgements, and pressures among women and slow down. For Christians there is only one opinion that matters: God’s opinion. God views us through his Son, and thereby we are perfect in his sight.

God is also omnipresent (he is everywhere at once.) Just like Adam and Eve, we can still eat the forbidden fruit today and try to be like God. Yet, God knows we are not like him; he knows we are weak and limited. As such, he created sleep for us and commands us to rest.

Our God is the one who said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30.) There is only one who can do it all. Jesus Christ. He is the one who took our heavy burden of sin away, and exchanged it for his light burden and easy yoke. The good news is that Jesus has already done it all. It’s finished, and now we truly have it all.

Where Dreams Go To Live

When I grow up I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a ballerina. I want to be a firefighter. You would hear many of these aspirations from a classroom of second graders in response to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s the cliche question to ask innocent little children before reality crashes down on them. Maybe it’s the question we still ask ourselves once we have grown up. Then reality gives us a cold reminder. We aren’t really where we imagined we would be or doing what we always wanted to do. Our dreams are fading or have already died.

How Dreams Work

I don’t think many women grew up having dreams of doing 3 loads of laundry every day, scrubbing toilets every week, doing dishes 5 times a day, planning and cooking 3 meals a day, all while little ones cling to their legs whining. If you did have dreams of being a homemaker and mom I’m sure they were more of the fluffy variety. The perfect scenario every time with never a moment of impatience, loneliness, discontentment or frustration. As little girls playing house we never understood the realistic side of those pretend moments.

But don’t most dreams work like that? Aren’t they usually fantasies? Maybe occasionally they find themselves making an appearance in the world of reality, but most times they are unrealistic expectations. We don’t know that though until we try to execute the fantasy, and realize it’s not measuring up to what was in our minds. When dreams are in the form of unrealistic expectations then they breed discontentment with the realistic outcome.

This is when dreams die. Not only are we in an occupation that society turns up its nose at, but we don’t get a bonus or trophy for what we do. We are only recognized by society one day a year in May, and the rest of the year we aren’t as important or liberated as career women.

Dreams Before Motherhood

Maybe before you became a wife and mom you had dreams of traveling the world, starting your own business, being an artist, or being that driven career woman in the workforce. It’s possible to eventually fulfill your dreams while being a wife and mother (and it’s definitely acceptable.) The issue is when reality and dreams collide. Can you realistically do it all now? Can it wait? Can it be expressed in a different way you hadn’t thought about? But the most important thing to realize is dreams can easily become idols; they can rob us of what is most valuable.

You see as wives and mothers we have the unique privilege to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Sometimes we can fulfill our dreams and sometimes we have to lay them down (maybe just for a season or maybe permanently.) We know it was hard for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to choose the Father’s will and sacrifice himself on the cross. He made the right choice because he was perfect, but his humanity was clearly displayed as he wrestled with what was before him. He ends with, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

He calls us to do the same. Sacrifice is a glorious and beautiful thing to Jesus, but not to our society. Sacrifice is tough, because it is death to ourselves and to our desires and personal fulfillment, but it always results in life and joy.

Joy and Life in Shattered Dreams

There was joy and life at the end of the road for Jesus. Joy found in fulfillment in others (us sinners he died for), life after being raised on the third day, and he was even exalted to the Father’s right hand.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2.

We should look to Jesus as the perfect example and enabler of laying down our lives for our families. This is the greatest and most fulfilling dream that Christ calls us to. He also calls us to dream about the place he is preparing for us in heaven. Perhaps the Bible doesn’t tell us everything about heaven, because we are supposed to dream about it here on Earth.

So many of our dreams are restricted when bound to this world and don’t compare to the glory of heaven; beholding the face of God, and being in His presence forever. Our dreams for ourselves on Earth are so finite, they are like stepping in a puddle when the whole rain cloud is waiting to burst open. We can’t dream any bigger than what awaits us in heaven. This is what Christ laid down his life for; he sacrificed himself for this. This is the ultimate joy before us. This is where our dreams go to live.